Friday, May 29, 2009

Why are games so addictive?

There are a few theories that help us form an opinion why games are so addictive.
One is the theory of ‘Flow’ – defined by Mihaly Csikzentmihlyi (try to say that out loud). The gamer balances between boredom and frustration. If a game is too easy, he or she will lose interest. If it’s too difficult, people will get frustrated and stop playing.

A second aspect of gaming is that gamers always needs to have the feeling they are making progress towards their goal. The gamer needs to develop skills to ensure progress as the game will get tougher and tougher over time with each next level.
If you combine these two theories you will see that gamers will have a moment of self reflection as soon as they fail in a certain level and are on the maximum level of frustration. Should they succeed the next time, the gamer will be rewarded by the game (Level up! Or ‘Congratulations) and himself (relief that the difficult task was completed successfully. So positive feedback and rewards are important as well, just as it is in real life.
The feeling of being able to master or control a situation is a fourth reasons why games appear to be so addictive. The increased and developed skill per level and the fact that good games are easy to learn, difficult to master.
Finally why games are so addictive is invoked by the theory of absorption. Just like books and films, games have the ability to soak up gamers. You will be literally be sucked into a game if the flow is right. According To scientists there are multiple levels of emersion. But this will be discussed in a new posting.

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